Best Pasta Carbonara (Without Cream!)


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Everyone should know how to make this 15-minute classic Italian pasta carbonara. It’s ridiculously easy and delicious. With a few simple tips you can make it just as well as any fancy restaurant – with just 5 main ingredients! It’s a super creamy pasta perfect for a quick weeknight meal, but guess what? NO CREAM!

A closeup of a fork in a bowl of pasta carbonara with another bowl in the background

Why you’ll love it

I love the idea of a lush creamy pasta, but I don’t like my pasta to be drenched in cream. The perfect compromise? An authentic no-cream pasta carbonara!

I’ve eaten some really terrible, too-rich versions, and I’ve eaten some fantastic ones. Each to their own, but this is why I think this is the best easy carbonara pasta recipe:

  • There’s NO CREAM. Not a single drop. Eggs alone are enough to make a delicious creamy (and healthy) carbonara sauce for your pasta… if you follow my simple tips!
  • It’s super simple, made with just a few basic ingredients. Get bacon, eggs and cheese, and you probably already have everything else you need in your pantry.
  • It’s on the table in about 15 minutes. Once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s just as quick and easy to make as a sandwich!
  • It’s honestly restaurant quality. Thanks to a few simple tips, this is one of those ‘miracle meals’ that takes mere minutes but tastes like it took you hours.
  • This is a perfect midweek meal, but just as good for easy entertaining!

Fun facts: Originally from the Lazio region (Rome), this ‘no cream’ carbonara happens to be how a traditional Italian carbonara is made.

As the name comes from the Italian word ‘carbonaro’ (meaning ‘charcoal burner’), some believe that this hearty, tasty dish was first made for Italian charcoal workers. Similar versions of the recipe go back to the mid 19th century, but pasta alla carbonara as we know it first started appearing in recipe books around 1950.


One of the best things about this recipe is that you probably already have most of the ingredients in your kitchen. Typically all I have to buy is the bacon and perhaps some pecorino or parmesan.

Just try to use quality ingredients since there are only a few!

Here’s a photo of the ingredients you’ll need for the creamy ‘no cream’ carbonara (minus the pasta!):

Ingredients for a classic pasta carbonara without cream

What pasta to use: I like to use linguine which is just slightly thicker and flatter than spaghetti. But carbonara made in this classic ‘just eggs’ way is both light enough and rich enough to make with a variety of pasta types.

For the most traditional carbonara, use long pasta such as spaghetti, linguine or fettuccine, but really there are no rules set in stone. Short pasta such as penne or rigatoni (tube pasta!) work, too.

Here’s a guide to which pasta shapes to use when if you’re interested in reading more about it!

Butter: Butter (for cooking) adds great flavour, but feel free to use olive oil instead. If your meat is quite fatty, you don’t have to add any extra fat at all.

Eggs: Perhaps surprisingly, only 2 large eggs, lightly whisked. Basically, you only need 1 egg per person you’re serving. Since the eggs are the star of the show in the sauce, I usually try to use fresh free range or organic eggs.

Fun fact: Some traditional carbonara recipes use just egg yolks for a richer sauce! You can add an extra yolk if you like, but I prefer to use the whole egg for a lighter but still very creamy (with no cream!) sauce.

Meat: Traditionally, carbonara is made with ‘guanciale’ or ‘pancetta’, both types of fairly fatty Italian cured pork. Outside of Italy, however, it’s more common to use ‘lardons’ (bacon cubes) or bacon, which is what I usually use. Smoked, streaky bacon works well for a great flavor.

As long as it’s salty and crisp any kind of good quality thick cut bacon will taste great.

You can even make a delicious carbonara with good quality smoked ham. Just remember to only cook it lightly for a minute or two, as it’s already cooked.

Garlic: This isn’t essential for an original carbonara recipe. I like to add a couple of whole cloves however, just to flavor the sauce as it cooks. Sometimes I squish them around a bit before removing to extract as much flavor as I can.

Cheese: Again, for a more authentic carbonara use parmigiano-reggiano or pecorino-romano. Alternatively, just use parmesan. Make sure it’s finely grated so that it melts easily into the sauce.

Parsley: For sprinkling over at the end. This is not essential to a traditional pasta carbonara, but I think it makes all the difference.

Salt and pepper: Season generously with salt and black pepper. Again, makes all the difference!

How to make carbonara without cream

It’s as simple as these 6 easy steps:

Step 1: Boil the pasta. Check the cooking instructions and cook until ‘al dente’ or just cooked. Don’t drain the water after cooking! (see tips below)

Step 2: While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large frying pan. If you’re using pancetta or particularly fatty bacon you can skip this step as the bacon will cook in its own fat.

Step 3: Cook bacon for 5-10 minutes with whole garlic cloves until cooked and lightly crisp.

Step 4: Take half of bacon out of pan. Transfer pasta straight from the cooking water to the pan with tongs.

Step 5: Take off heat (very important!). Add whisked eggs mixed with half the cheese and some salt and pepper. Then toss quickly and confidently until all the pasta is coated in the velvety sauce.

You should have just enough time to make the egg sauce while the pasta is cooking. How convenient is that?!

4 process shots showing how to make a classic pasta carbonara without cream

Step 5: Layer pasta, bacon, cheese, and salt and pepper in bowls. Top with parsley.

Eat immediately. Savour every delicious mouthful!

A closeup of a white bowl of pasta carbonara without cream from above

Helen’s tips

I have 7 essential tips for success to take your quick and easy creamless carbonara from good to exceptional!

Top tip: Read through the recipe once or twice and have all the ingredients ready before you start. You need to be able to work fast and confidently for the best results!

  • Consider cooking your bacon in butter. I hardly ever use butter for cooking, but I love the extra flavor it adds to this recipe.
  • Add two cloves of garlic to the pan while cooking the bacon – for another extra burst of flavor!
  • Add the pasta to the bacon pan straight from the cooking water. This way you don’t lose any of the delicious flavor from the bacon cooking juices. You also automatically transfer some of the pasta cooking water which helps make a beautiful creamy, glossy sauce.
  • Take the pan off the heat before you add the eggs. Quickly toss the sauce through until the pasta is evenly coated (I use tongs). You don’t want to end up with scrambled eggs!
  • Layer up the different components on each person’s plate! So… start with pasta, sprinkle over bacon, parmesan, and salt & pepper. Repeat. Bacon and cheese in every bite. Yum.
  • Serve immediately to prevent the sauce from drying up before serving. This is definitely a dish that’s at its best when eaten straight away. Enjoy!
Someone eating a bowl of pasta carbonara without cream with another bowl in the background


Like many classic recipes, this no cream carbonara recipe is pretty perfect as it is! However, if you’d like to change things up a little, here’s what you can try:

  • Try chicken or smoked salmon instead of bacon. The smoked salmon won’t need cooking so simply mix it into the egg and cheese mixture before tossing it through the pasta.
  • Replace the optional parsley garnish with fresh chives or basil if you like.
  • For a vegetarian carbonara without cream, replace the bacon with mushrooms, caramelized onions, asparagus, zucchini, spinach, cubed eggplant or a mixture of these. Just cook these in the same way as the bacon before tossing through the pasta and egg sauce.

Carbonara also makes a perfect lazy weekend meal! If you want more ideas, check out this list of 100 easy Sunday dinner ideas!

Recipe FAQ

Are the eggs in a carbonara sauce raw, and if so is it safe to eat?

Nope, they aren’t raw. And so yes, they are perfectly safe to eat. The eggs cook as you stir them into the hot pasta with a bit of the cooking water. You end up with a delicious glossy egg sauce that’s cooked but not scrambled!

How do I stop the sauce turning to scrambled eggs?

I’ll be honest – this has happened to me more than once. The key is to take the pan off the heat BEFORE you add the pasta and eggs. Briefly toss the eggs through the hot pasta. Use kitchen tongs to transfer the pasta straight to the pan along with a bit of cooking water. Then assemble and serve the meal as fast as you can!

What do you serve with pasta carbonara?

You can serve it as it is, or with a very simple green salad or some green vegetables on the side.

More easy pasta recipes

Or take a look at all my pasta recipes.



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A closeup of a plate of pasta carbonara without cream with a fork in it
5 from 7 votes

Best Pasta Carbonara (Without Cream!)

No cream, no heavy sauce, just a really good classic pasta carbonara with a sauce made of just eggs and cheese. It's a real crowd pleaser – both light and decadent at the same time – and takes just 15 minutes to make with just 5 main ingredients!
Prep: 3 minutes
Cook: 12 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings: 2


  • ounces linguine, or spaghetti, or any pasta of your choice
  • 3.5 ounces bacon, (or pancetta) chopped – thick cut smoked bacon is best (or lardons)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
  • 2 eggs, lightly whisked
  • cup parmesan cheese, (or pecorino or parmigiano-reggiano), finely grated
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • a little chopped fresh parsley, optional

to serve (optional)

  • simple green salad; OR
  • green vegetables


  • Cook the pasta according to the cooking instructions until 'al dente'. Whisk half of the parmesan into the eggs, grind in some salt and pepper, and set aside.
    ⅓ cup parmesan cheese, 4½ ounces linguine, salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the bacon/pancetta and garlic cloves and let cook, stirring often, for 5 – 10 minutes until golden and starting to crisp. Then discard the garlic.
    3.5 ounces bacon, 2 tablespoons butter, 2 garlic cloves
  • Take about half of the bacon out of the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Leave the bacon juices behind. Take the pan off the heat (very important!).
  • Use kitchen tongs or a spaghetti server spoon to lift the pasta straight out of the cooking water and into the bacon pan.
  • As quickly as you can, pour the eggs and parmesan mixture over the hot pasta in the pan. Also add a little more pasta cooking water. Briefly toss everything together so that the eggs `just` cook (without scrambling!).
  • Quickly serve out a little of the pasta onto each dish. Top with a little of the reserved bacon and parmesan and grind over a little more salt and pepper. Top this layer with more pasta and the rest of the bacon and parmesan.
  • Scatter with a little fresh parsley if using. Serve immediately by itself or with a simple green salad or green vegetables.
    a little chopped fresh parsley, simple green salad; OR, green vegetables



What kind of pasta to use

We really like to use linguine. Other ‘long pasta’ such as spaghetti or fettuccine work well too, of course, but you can use any pasta you like. Carbonara sauce is both light enough and rich enough for any type of pasta shape. 

Your recipe is only for 2 people. Can I make it for more? 

Absolutely! Just use the slider next to the ‘servings’ label above to change the ingredient amounts for the number of people you want to make the recipe for. 
A general rule is 1 egg per person you want to serve.
I sometimes like to make this recipe just for myself (carbonara for one!). In this case slide the ‘servings’ slider to just ‘1’.

What kind of bacon to use

Use any thick cut smoked bacon. Traditionally streaky bacon or pancetta is used to make carbonara, but I prefer less fat! You can also use lardons (bacon cubes).
In a pinch thinner bacon and even ham will work too. In this case, use good quality and just cook for a few minutes to release some flavor into the butter.

How to make sure you don’t get scrambled eggs instead of a loose, silky and creamy sauce

My best advice is to read carefully through the recipe instructions before starting and try to memorize the steps. 
It’s really important to take the pan off the heat before you add the eggs. Lift the pasta straight out of the cooking water into the bacon pan so that some water goes into the pan. Add a little more of the cooking water as you add the eggs.
Work quickly and confidently!


Calories: 541kcal, Carbohydrates: 22g, Protein: 22g, Fat: 40g, Saturated Fat: 18g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g, Monounsaturated Fat: 15g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 238mg, Sodium: 749mg, Potassium: 218mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 736IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 238mg, Iron: 2mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

About Helen Schofield

Don't expect to find anything fussy or complicated here. Just QUICK, EASY & (mostly!) HEALTHY recipes from the Mediterranean and beyond. ENJOY!

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  1. 5 stars
    Looks delicious! Only my hubby and I to cook for now, so can I make enough for 2 days and put half in the fridge? You do say to eat immediately so I’m wondering if the egg becomes lumpy if reheated? Love your recipes!

    1. Hello, Shan! Unfortunately, yes the egg would probably scramble if reheated the next day. What you could do though is make enough bacon and onions for 2 days. You could also prepare the cheese and chopped parsley ahead. That way although you’d still have to cook fresh pasta the second day, the recipe would still be a lot faster than if you had to prepare absolutely everything. I really hope you enjoy it!

      1. Thank you, will do. As an experiment, will keep a little bit for the next day and report back🥰

    1. Hello, Denise! Not really since the eggs combine with the hot water from the pasta cooking water and the parmesan to make a very delicate sauce. I’d say give it a try, perhaps not mentioning that the sauce is made from eggs, and see how you go? 😉

  2. Hi Helen

    Thank you for your lovely recipes. We had your PASTA CARBONARA on Saturday night, it was delish. I’ve made this pasta for ages, always hit or miss with the cream. Your recipe is as you said “the perfect Cabornara recipe” and it did take just 15 minutes! I’ve added to it my pasta repertoire

    Good to hear you and your family are enjoying you new home, sound idyllic .

    Kind regards, Gail

    1. Hello Gail, and thank you so much for the positive feedback! I’m so happy to hear that the recipe turned out as described for you! I still find the recipe a bit of an art, but once you’ve got it it’s, as you say, delish! Good to hear it did only take 15 minutes too. I’m always surprised by how quickly I can make this, and wonder why I don’t make it more often! Thanks again for writing – it’s lovely to hear from you!

  3. Oh you food snob…. hahahahahahaha just kidding. I’m totally with you. Asheley and I always critique our meals when we go out somewhere. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s part of the dining experience that we love! Loving this carbonara… it’s making me drool it looks so good!

    1. Glad we’re not the only ones! My husband is the biggest food critic I know … unfortunately that sometimes extends to critiquing my food, too … although I guess that’s helpful 😉
      So happy you like the carbonara!

  4. This carbonara recipe is a must try. My hubby is crazy for carbonara but i don’t have a proper recipe! Pinning for trying soon!

    1. Thanks great news, Melanie! Please let me know when you try this … I’d love to know how it turns out! 🙂

  5. Oh, this is one of my youngest daughter’s favorite dishes, but I must admit, I have not attempted it in a long time because of the high fat content. But, the “no cream” is making me want to reevaluate that decision! Love all the great tips here, too, Helen, because that can make such a difference whether or not a dish is a success!

    1. So glad this has made you reconsider making a carbonara for your daughter, Lori! I have to admit I still probably wouldn’t make this TOO often because after all it’s mainly just pasta, but at least the ‘no cream’ version does make it a little healthier. Happy you like the tips and hope they help!

  6. I LOVE this pasta, Helen! Come to think of it, I really don’t think I’ve made carbonara at home before. Now I have the confidence to try it, thanks to all your helpful tips! Sorry about your carbonara soup…that does sound like a letdown, but I bet your fabulous version made up for the disappointment!

    1. Aw, so glad you like this, Alyssa! I’m very happy to be encouraging you to have a go at your first carbonara! It’s a fabulous easy mid-week option to have just now and again. 🙂

  7. My carbonara never looked that good!!! We love this dish and I must try your recipe!!!